I am excited to share a guest post by my friend, Alene Nitzky. Alene shares about her wonderful (and very much needed) new online service now available for people who are trying to reclaim and restore their lives following a cancer (any sort and any stage) diagnosis. Read what drives Alene’s passion and then let her know your thoughts and questions. At the end of this post there’s a special discount offer for you, dear readers, which is being honored through December. Yes, I said December! Thank you, Alene, for your passion, drive and determination to help others navigate the maze of coping with cancer and its aftermath.
by Alene Nitzky
My name is Alene, and I am an oncology nurse, health coach and cancer exercise trainer from Fort Collins, Colorado. I am now founder and CEO of Cancer Harbors™, an online service to support people in restoring quality of life during and after cancer treatment.
My personal passion is to bridge the gap between medical care and living life well, for everyone, regardless of the status of their cancer or other chronic diseases that may also be present.
Before I became a nurse, I taught exercise science at the college level, and was a personal trainer working with people with chronic health conditions. I soon realized I needed more medical knowledge if I was to better serve my clients’ quality of life needs. I decided to go to nursing school. I hadn’t thought of working with people with cancer specifically, but the universe is amazing with its message and timing.
Before I started nursing school, I took a job as a part-time nursing assistant in a hospital oncology unit. I wanted to make sure nursing was for me. I loved it. I put in my application for nursing school, and within weeks, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly thereafter.
Right after my nursing school graduation, a week before I was to start my first nursing job, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is now a ten-year survivor.
A few weeks later, when I started my first nursing job, I became good friends with my co-worker in ICU who was assigned to train me. His wife was living with ovarian cancer. I learned much from listening to him describe what they were going through, until six years later, when she died.
In 2009 my dad was diagnosed with a form of chronic leukemia. I had to listen, my gut was telling me I needed to be in oncology. So I left ICU for the outpatient oncology clinic, giving chemotherapy infusions and other supportive care to hematology and oncology patients.
The common thread in every experience I just described, was that my family members, patients, friends, and clients all said the same thing: medical care could diagnose, treat and prescribe, but did nothing to improve their quality of life.
While I worked in the infusion clinic, I attended support groups to listen to people in the community, about how they fared after treatment, when we no longer saw them as patients. I got involved in community efforts to provide input and raise funds for a local cancer center.
In big box corporate healthcare, priorities are centered around money. Disappointed that the services to be offered in the new facility did not meet the real, every day, quality of life needs of people after treatment, I decided it was time to do something.
I had the skills and background to do it, but more than anything, the passion to offer something better. People needed support in the transition from being a patient to regaining control over their lives, instead of being permanently medicalized through something called “survivorship”.
Now I do three main things I couldn’t do in the confines of the box:
1. I coach individual clients with all types and stages of cancer, during and after treatment, with a palliative approach. Palliative???!!!
The word often strikes fear in anyone who has been around cancer or chronic disease. Unfortunately, the term palliative has gotten twisted into being associated only with end-of-life care and Hospice, both by patients and doctors. This results in patients being denied an approach that could improve quality of life dramatically, even when they have a favorable prognosis and will likely live a normal lifespan.
Palliative simply means relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. In the case of end-of-life, palliative care is an approach to dying well, by relieving symptoms and quality of life. But palliative care should not be avoided. There are too many people, regardless of whether they are NED, Stage IV, or anywhere on the spectrum of cancer, who are missing out on the opportunity to live life much better because their doctors fail to refer them to palliative care for ongoing symptoms.
2. Nearly two years ago, I started a class in my hometown, called FIERCE: Functional & Fit, Independent, Energized, Confident & Empowered®.
With the generosity of a local health club, I am able to offer it free of charge to any cancer survivor in the community. FIERCE is a hybrid support group and active exercise class, and offers learning opportunities about forms of therapeutic physical activity and other ways to improve health. We are a support group in the sense that everyone is a cancer survivor and can relate to each other’s experiences, but we don’t sit around and talk. Instead, we move, and we learn ways to move. I bring in speakers from the community to do talks and demonstrations because different styles of activity fit different people. We’ve had speakers on Pilates, Tai-Chi, Qi-Gong, yoga, healthy communication, biofeedback, and more.
3. Over the last two years I have been developing content for a service I launched in April, 2016, called Cancer Harbors™.
It’s a year-long, online program that emphasizes action, skill-building, learning activities, and support in a comprehensive range of issues common to many cancer survivors. The feature of the program is the use of videoconferencing to provide face-to-face interaction and coaching for support, guidance, and questions & answers. There are video-enhanced educational materials presented monthly, a moderated discussion forum, You Tube channel with instructional exercise and other videos, and more features. It’s easy to use, self-paced, and inexpensive, and can be given as a gift, too. To see a list of the topics covered, visit this link.
Nancy’s Point readers will receive a special 10% discount off the monthly rate/year’s subscription. This discount will also apply when Cancer Harbors is given as a gift. The discount code is: nancy10. This special discount will extend through December 2016, but why wait? Sign up now or pass this great deal along to someone else. Thank you in advance!
If you have questions about Cancer Harbors, please contact me (Alene) at any of the following links:
phone (toll-free): 1-844-942-7267 (1-844-9-HARBOR)
or go to the Cancer Harbors website
Twitter: @cancerharbors @AleneGoneBad
Facebook: Cancer Harbors
Alene Nitzky, Ph.D. RN, OCN is Founder & CEO of Cancer Harbors. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband and enjoys running, writing, painting in pastel, and Australian Shepherds.
Do you struggle with survivorship issues following your cancer diagnosis?
Are your survivorship needs being adequately addressed by your healthcare team, or could you use a little boost of help?
Do you have a question for Alene about Cancer Harbors?